A Jeweled Bible and Silver Altar: Inside the Historic Church Where Princess Charlotte Will Be Christened

Learn more about St. Mary Magdalene, on the grounds of Sandringham estate

Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty

It may be a quiet, secluded building surrounded by trees like many country places of worship, but inside St. Mary Magdalene church are fabulous artifacts and religious furniture fit for a Queen – and a new princess!

Little Princess Charlotte will be baptized over the traditional royal vessel, the Victorian Lily Font, brought up from London. But the ceremony will take place before a spectacular silver altar that was a gift from an American benefactor to the royal family more than a century ago.

The elaborate altar, which is decorated with the royal coat of arms held aloft by two angels, was given to King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in 1909 by Rodman Wanamaker, a Philadelphian who made his fortune in department stores.

It isn’t the only gilded piece in Queen Elizabeth‘s local church. A magnificent jeweled Bible, which is covered in brass and gold and decorated with 500 precious stones, including sapphires, emeralds and white opals, was another gift from Wanamaker in the same period.

There has been a church on the spot since 1321, but the current building was largely created in Victorian times when then Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, bought Sandringham in 1862. He later restored it alongside his wife, Queen Alexandra.

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Sunday’s christening guests, which are thought to number no more than 30, will enter by a lychgate and pass the Georgian tombstones and graves of Prince Alexander – Queen Alexandra’s son who died as an infant in 1871 – and Prince John, the fifth son of George V and Queen Mary.

On the way out, as they are welcomed by locals who have been invited to share the afternoon with the royal family, they will walk along the avenue of Scots pine trees and back to the Queen’s Sandringham house.

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